The Market Animal Sale, 4-H exhibits at the Price County Fair, Price County day camps, 4-H Horse Council, community service projects, and all other great aspects of the local 4-H program were on the line as two members of the the Price County Executive Board, James Hintz and Larry Palecek, made a motion Thursday, September 12th to support elimination of the UW-Extension, UWEX, funding and redirect the funding to an additional social worker position. The motion was carried and then amended to supporting the elimination of UW-Extension funding. The motion was carried and included under Agenda Item 5C: 2020 Budget - Initial Presentation of 2020 Budget and Assumptions.
The 4-H organization learned of this motion and then verified with Nick Trimner, County Administrator, that the 4-H position would be included if this passed. Every county needs a state-funded 4-H agent in order for there to be a program in the county, so this would have meant the elimination of the 4-H program in Price County.
Citizens interested in keeping the 4-H program going started doing research and asking more questions. As of Friday, it is reported that the minutes of the Executive meeting were not available and a number of board members, who were contacted over the weekend, stated they were not aware of this motion passing. According to a 4-H volunteer, "The frustrating part is the county administrator should have reached out to the organization, at a minimum the UWEX committee, before even considering a cut. Board members should have been given all the facts and had time to research and see what the impacts on the community would have been. Board members should have been given time to address the issue, talk with the constituents, and be able to make informed decisions."
Many 4-H volunteers took to Facebook to encourage the community to support the UW-Extension at the board meeting scheduled for today, Tuesday, September 17, 2019. Over 50 supporters, both adults and youth, were present at the county board meeting. A number of individuals signed in for public comment but only a few were able to speak. Zoe Peterson, a youth member of 4-H, stated, "I have been in 4-H for 11 years, and it has changed my life. I have learned to be a leader and a listener. I have made lifelong friends that I will never forget and opened doors that I didn't even know existed. I raised sheep for four years, and I have learned more in those four years than I have ever imagined I would. I spent my entire summer doing a project that would have to be ready in August. I learned how to be responsible and financially responsible. When I put those lambs on the truck, I realized what I spent my entire summer doing, making myself better. And that is what 4-H is all about. I hope that when you are making this decision today that you think about all the youth and the doors that they are able to open through 4-H now and in the future."
Other youth who spoke in support of 4-H include Lilly Johnson, Devynn Deleasky, Libbie Hilgart, and Jackson Grendys.
Michelle Drobnik, an adult 4-H volunteer, shared her thoughts on the 4-H program: "Along with being an active voter in Price County and concerned citizen, I am currently the vice chair of the Price County Fair Board, a board member of the Price County Market Animal Sale Committee and a volunteer leader for several other projects in the Price County 4-H Program, and I also work full-time and am a mom of two young boys. I contribute hundreds of hours of service to our community and youth each year, because I believe in Price County and want it to be a place where young people can grow and thrive like I did. I was involved in Price County 4-H as a young person and it definitely shaped me into the person I am today!
"Some of the purposes of 4-H are to engage young people to reach their fullest potential while strengthening their leadership and life skills and helping them give back to their communities through civic engagement and volunteer service. It disheartens me to find that a program that does so much for our youth and our community is even the subject of a potential budget cut.
"The motto of 4-H is to 'make the best better.' I know that is what I want for Price County, and I want to believe that is what you want too! And yet we are here today because there has been discussion and an Executive Committee decision to cut the UW-Extension budget, which would in turn cut 4-H. The program has already been cut and our young people are already missing out on opportunities that would be available if a full time 4-H staff person and adequate support staff were in place.
"Please donít punish the future of the county by taking away something that means so much to many of the youth who are sitting before you and the ones who are not able to attend today. Support our 4-H Program and embrace its motto, 'Make the best better' for Price County."
A number of other adults also spoke in favor of the program. The chairman was asked to allow the others to speak, but the chairman did not allow it feeling public comment should be contained in a fifteen minute period.
Board members who were also very vocal supporters of UW-Extension were Paula Houdek, Bill Teeters, and Sue Babcock. Bruce Jilka, also a supporter of 4-H had concerns with the current shared agent with Oneida and Price Counties. He expressed concern about the value of the services.
Nick Trimner presented the proposed adjustments and stated that cuts have to come from somewhere. Human Services has a deficit budget of $700,000 and continues to have overruns.
After much discussion, Hintz requested a roll call vote. A 12-1 vote to maintain the current UW-Extension funding was passed, thus saving the 4-H program in the county.
Becky Denzine, a supporter of 4-H who did extensive research into this matter, shared her thoughts, "What an impact today has had. A prime example of UWEX supporters, adult, youth, alumni and community members coming together to support a truly valuable resource in Price County. Thank you to the board members who listened and sought out solutions to maintain the UWEX office. Words cannot express how proud I am of our 4-H youth all willing to speak. Not all had the opportunity, but I commend all as they stepped up and were the voice of 4-H. Today I saw many future leaders. Also, [thanks] to the Strong Bones ladies, whose presence was noted and the message impactful. Today was a great civic lesson for our youth. We need to continue lobbying and show all how valuable the entire UWEX office is."
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